AM at Jabil: From 3D Printing Materials to Distributed Manufacturing

One of the largest manufacturers in the world has made a significant investment in 3D printing — both as a user and an advancer of this technology. Our original reporting dives into the what and why of additive manufacturing at Jabil.
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Why is Jabil interested in additive manufacturing (AM)? The global manufacturing solutions provider serving OEMs in various industries already does injection molding on thousands of presses and metalworking on thousands of machine tools. And therein lies the answer to the question: Jabil leaders say they expect AM not just to become a fully accepted production process, but also to transform production. Therefore, the company is investing to advance AM to this point today. By expanding its 3D printing capacity and certifying 3D printing within established quality standards, the company aims to be able to produce with additive manufacturing just as routinely and effectively as does with conventional processes.

To understand production AM at Jabil, we visited various sites within the company and spoke with Jabil team members involved with additive. Watch our video above for an overview, and find links to our original reporting below, starting with our interview with Vice President of 3D Printing and Digital Manufacturing John Dulchinos.

Jabil’s Additive Manufacturing Vision

There is a chicken-and-egg problem inhibiting AM from realizing its promise for production, Dulchinos says. To realize the full benefit of AM, parts must be designed for this process. However, OEMs are reluctant to commit the part design to AM without assurance of reliable and sufficient capacity in the supply chain. Jabil hopes to break this stalemate by qualifying and scaling up its own AM capacity to become this dependable AM production source.

The likely result will be a different mode of production, he says. Parts will be produced not in batches but in families, and they will be produced as needed for assembly without shipping or storage.



Solving the 3D Printing Materials Challenge

Additive Manufacturing Media was the first press to tour Jabil’s Additive Materials Innovation Center in Chaska, Minnesota. This 46,000-square-foot facility includes equipment for developing, testing and manufacturing materials for polymer 3D printing.

The purpose of this Center is partly to ensure that the right mix and volume of polymer 3D printing materials will be available as Jabil moves into AM production at scale. But another part of its purpose has to do with confidence. The facility focuses not just on creating new 3D printing materials, but on proving them out so that they print reliably on known machines with specified parameters. The long-term promise of that confidence is distributed manufacturing on a global scale, and the ability to manufacture where and when needed, in just the quantities required.



Production 3D Printing in Practice

With additive manufacturing, making parts and assembling parts no longer need to be separate. Jabil’s assembly facility in Auburn Hills, Michigan, has traditionally received all its components from machine shops and molders located elsewhere. That will change. 3D printing capacity at this site will allow parts to be printed just-in-time for production without entering into inventory.

AM technology is ready for this mode of production now. To apply AM and to realize this promise, Jabil is characterizing production 3D printing resources within the ISO quality system that defines the rest of the work of this plant.